A move to exclude some of the more divisive contenders from Egypt’s presidential election may help moderate candidates seen as better able to forge the consensus many believe can foster a peaceful transition to democracy. Two prominent Islamists – one a hardline Salafi sheikh, the other the Muslim Brotherhood’s official nominee – as well as ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s spy chief were battling to stay in the running on Monday as a deadline approached for them to appeal against disqualification by the state election committee. All three had put their names forward late in the process in a way that reinforced an impression in recent weeks that the shaky temporary consensus of necessity between an increasingly assertive Islamist bloc and the generals ruling Egypt since Mubarak’s overthrow 14 months ago was breaking down.
Egypt: In a confused political process, Egypt’s military steps back into role in new constitution | Daily Reporter
Egypt’s ruling military has inserted a new element of confusion even as Egypt tries to sort out turmoil surrounding its upcoming presidential elections. The generals now insist a new constitution be written before a new president is seated, a rushed timeframe that some fear may prolong their hold on power. For weeks, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists sought to dominate the writing of the country’s first new constitution since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak more than a year ago. But after Islamist domination of the process sparked a backlash of criticism, the military has stepped back in to take a more direct role. The military’s new assertiveness has split the national debate. Some liberals have welcomed the military’s weight to counteract the increasing power of Islamists. Others, however, worry that the generals aim to continue their control over Egypt beyond their promised deadline for handing over power to a civilian president by the end of June.
Egypt’s Presidential Election Commission has deemed ten candidates unqualified for the upcoming election battle to succeed the toppled Hosni Mubarak. They include the surprise candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat al-Shater; the more radical Islamist Hazem Salah Abu Ismail; and Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s long time spymaster. Egyptian citizens are massing in Tahrir Square protesting anti-democratic manipulation by the Commission as well as protesting in various pockets of the square this or that candidate on the roster — or, as it were, not on the roster. Of those in the current public glare, however, Omar Suleiman is the person I find most fascinating and perhaps consequential.
Egypt’s election commission disqualified 10 presidential hopefuls, including Hosni Mubarak’s former spy chief and key Islamists, from running Saturday in a surprise decision that threatened to upend an already tumultuous race. Farouk Sultan, the head of the Supreme Presidential Election Commission, said that those barred from the race Mubarak-era strongman Omar Suleiman, Muslim Brotherhood chief strategist Khairat el-Shater and hard-line lawyer-turned-preacher Hazem Abu Ismail. He didn’t give a reason. The announcement came as a shock to many Egyptians as three of the 10 excluded were considered among the front-runners in a highly polarized race that has left the country divided into two strong camps: Islamists and former insiders from the ousted regime who are allegedly supported by the country’s ruling military council. The disqualified candidates have 48 hours to appeal the decision, according to election rules. The final list of candidates will be announced on April 26. Thirteen others had their candidacy approved, including former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh and former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, according to Sultan.
The Muslim Brotherhood said Sunday that it will fight the banning of its candidate for president that has thrown Egypt’s move toward elected civilian rule into disarray and threatens a return to massive street protests. “We do not accept it. We will challenge it,” said Gehad El-Haddad, a member of the steering committee for the Renaissance Project, which is at the heart of the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential campaign. Ten presidential candidates were barred from contesting the nation’s top job in a decision announced Saturday by the presidential election commission, five weeks before the presidential race is set to begin in May. The decision comes at the tail end of a week marred by a slew of shocks and shifts — from a candidate jumble to a march on Tahrir Square— that persisted in shaking the pre-election period.
Egypt’s election commission rejected the appeals of three main contenders for president Tuesday, definitively removing the most polarizing candidates from the race to become the country’s first elected leader since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. The disqualification of the three diminishes the chances that an Islamist candidate will win the presidency, but there are worries over the fallout from the decision, particularly from the supporters of one of the barred candidates, ultraconservative Islamist Hazem Abu Ismail. Around 2,000 Abu Ismail supporters had camped outside the commission’s headquarters since the previous day, demanding he be allowed to run. When the rejection was announced Tuesday evening, some of them threw stones at security and briefly scuffled with military police.
Egypt’s parliament has passed a bill that strips senior figures of ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s regime of their political rights for 10 years. Thursday’s vote is designed to stop Mubarak’s former spy chief and vice president, Omar Suleiman, from running in next month’s presidential election. The law would only come into effect if the military council that took over from Mubarak when he stepped down last year ratifies it. This is unlikely to happen before the election commission issues a final list of presidential candidates, which is expected later this month. Decisions of the election commission cannot be appealed. The law covers those who served in top posts, from the president down to leaders of his ruling party, during the 10 years prior to Mubarak’s ouster.
The People’s Assembly (the lower house of Egypt’s parliament) devoted a special session on Wednesday afternoon to discussing proposed legislation aimed at prohibiting figures associated with ousted president Hosni Mubarak from contesting upcoming presidential elections. The assembly reportedly decided to convene after several MPs expressed fears that the bill, drafted by the moderate-Islamist Wasat Party, might be ruled unconstitutional. “The problem is that the bill contradicts Article 26 of the constitutional declaration [issued in March of last year by the ruling military council and approved via popular referendum], which does not set any conditions on the presidency,” said Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mohamed Attia. “Once the law is passed by the assembly, it must be scrutinised by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) to determine its constitutionality.” Echoing the opinion of most MPs, Attia added that “any undue haste in passing the law will make people think it was tailored to serve the needs of a particular group or to prevent a particular person from contesting the presidency.”
Egypt’s electoral commission on Sunday said 23 people registered to run for the upcoming presidential elections, hours after the doors have officially closed for candidacy registrations. Each candidate is hoping to lead the Arab world’s most populous nation through a fragile transition following an uprising that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak last year. The candidates include former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Khairat el-Shater, former Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh and Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq. Former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, a stalwart of the Mubarak regime and seen as close to the ruling military, registered less than half an hour before the 2:00 pm (1200 GMT) deadline. Suleiman. 74, announced he planned to run on Friday, saying overwhelming public pressure had aroused his sense of soldierly duty. He had needed to collect the signatures of 30,000 eligible voters by Sunday’s deadline in order to take part.